Rated PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and brief mild language, 127 minutes
Muddled story aside, “Tron: Legacy” is a visual feast
Upfront, I’ll say that the new action-film sequel “Tron: Legacy” is visually stunning, captivating and at times mesmerizing, and is a shoo-in for many technical awards at this year’s Oscars. On the flip side, everything in between is a mixed bag. The muddled, emotionless story and bland acting come in striking contrast to the captivating visuals, which should make this sci-fi film a big hit. The original “Tron” was a flawed film with too little story and memorable special effects; the sequel is a better but still-flawed film, with memorable special-effects and too much story.
For twenty years, Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) has been haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his father Kevin (Jeff Bridges), an innovative software programmer and former CEO of ENCOM International. One night, an executive consultant for ENCOM and friend of Kevin, Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner), sends Sam to investigate a mysterious page originating from the long abandoned Flynn's Arcade.
While searching for clues, Sam is suddenly transported to the digital world of The Grid. Aided by the digital warrior Quorra (Olivia Wilde) and Tron (Bruce Boxleitner), Sam is reunited with his father and together set out on a journey to return home. Encountering vehicles, weapons, and landscapes that have become far more advanced than before, father and son must evade CLU 2, an updated version of Flynn's original hacking program (and really a younger version of Bridges), which will stop at nothing to prevent their escape.
“Tron: Legacy” is an entertaining sci-fi action film highlighted by some of the year’s most exciting, colorful special-effects. The memorable (and expensive) visuals are the main reason to see the film, you won’t remember much of the slow, baffling story and bland acting. Disney has gone to great lengths to ensure audiences will be entertained and they’ve succeeded; the film should be a big hit though it doesn’t advance the sci-fi genre much.
The cast is headlined by a hammy Jeff Bridges, who returns from the original film, and who plays both the protagonist and antagonist; his older hippy version is the heart of the film (and The Dude comes out a few times, watch closely) while his younger, leaner CG version is the villain. Hedlund is the blandest of the young actors and literally disappears under all the visuals while Wilde, the loveliest of the new wave of British actresses, is somewhat wasted as a young pretty program. Michael Sheen nearly walks off with the movie midway through in campy David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust-like form (at first you really think it may actually be Bowie himself); it’s also nice seeing Boxleitner, though he isn’t given much to do (and hardly recognizable in the digital world).
Without the striking, first-rate visuals, which energize the film, “Tron: Legacy” wouldn’t amount to much. The 1982 original film was somewhat of a cheesy bore; this one is more fun to watch but the story, written by a couple of “Lost” writers, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, is baffling, peppered with overly symbolic Biblical references (“he’s the son” and “go toward the light”) and assumes audiences will remember the original film (they won’t). Video and commercial director Joseph Kosinski helms the visuals well but he lets everything else go on too long.
“Tron: Legacy” could’ve benefited from a leaner, more efficient story and better acting, which may not mean much given all the exciting visuals; it improves upon the original film but only to show the advances that Hollywood has made with computers and special-effects. Enjoyable but forgettable Disney entertainment.